It’s long been thought that our attitudes towards giving and charity changes as we get older. Now a landmark study that combined insight from the field of psychology, economics and neuroscience, has found that altruistic tendencies, or the selfless desire to do good for others without seeking any personal benefit, is stronger in second half of life, specifically after age 45.
The study by researchers at the University of Oregon worked to identify the signs of ‘pure altruism’ in the brain. They did this by giving a test group of 80 adults $100 each to do with what they chose, primarily giving to a chosen charity or transferring it their own account. Through observing the decision making process, performing personality tests and carrying out functional MRI scans on participants as they watched the money being transferred either externally or to their own account researchers were able to observe the brains’ reward centre.
The researchers were able to determine that for some participants, the reward centre was activated more by their own good fortune in being given $100 seemingly without strings attached while for others, the reward centre was more active while watching the money they’d been given being transferred to charity. Researchers then triangulated these findings and identified what they termed a ‘general benevolence’ which was highest in people 45 years and older.
The research also took into account religious affiliations, political position, gender and annual income with the findings indicating that certain religious affiliations were slightly more likely to possess general benevolence while the other factors didn’t have any significant bearing.
The motivations behind altruism along with the great impact on community and connection needs further research but the beginning stages certainly indicate that giving without needing to receive is still alive and well, at least in our older citizens!
Do you feel that you’ve become more altruistic as you’ve gotten older? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.